Contemporary

The Post-Populist Constitution: Reassessing the Role of the People

Professor Denis Galligan, Emeritus Professor of Socio-Legal Studies, delivers the 2018 Max Watson Annual Lecture on the constitutional consequences of the rise in populist movements around the world.

Following the rise of hardline populists such as Erdogan in Turkey, Trump in the US, Orbán in Hungary, Duterte in the Philippines, and Bolsonaro in Brazil, the lecture consider what the popularity of political strongmen tells us about the place of the People in the constitution.

 

Poland’s Constitutional Crisis: Facts and interpretations

In this policy brief, prominent critic of the ruling Law and Justice Party Marcin Matczak presents the crucial events of ‘the Polish constitutional crisis’, and what has been widely described as a backsliding on the part of Poland into authoritarianism. 

He attempts to explain the nature and possible causes of the crisis, in which the government has assumed full control of the appointment of new judges, and is attempting to enforce the retirement of over a third of sitting judges, including the president of the Supreme Court, in contravention of the Polish Constitution. The moves have been condemned by the European Commission, which has announced its intention to take the Polish government to the European Court of Justice over the legislation, on the grounds that “these measures undermine the principle of judicial independence".

The author offers three explanations for the causes of the crisis: (1) historical, originating from the smooth, non-punitive nature of the post-Communist transition; (2) legal, relating to the excessive formalism of Polish legal culture; and (3) sociological, as a crisis of liberalism and of political identification among the youth and across society at large.

Marcin Matczak is a lawyer and academic in Warsaw, and is a frequent commentator in The Guardian and other media outlets on the ongoing threats to the judiciary in Poland and the response by the EU.